WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2014 -- A bipartisan group of 63 U.S. representatives have written to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker voicing their opposition to negotiating a suspension agreement with Mexico in the antidumping and countervailing duty cases on Mexican sugar imports filed by U.S. sugar producers.

In their letter, the lawmakers said any managed trade agreement that restricts access to sugar from Mexico would hurt U.S. consumers and businesses while threatening the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship.

In a news release, the Coalition for Sugar Reform, whose member include food and beverage companies that use sugar, said it welcomed the letter and noted that 17 senators from both sides of the aisle had sent a similar letter to Pritzker on July 29.

America’s sugar producers in March filed antidumping and countervailing duty petitions against Mexico with the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).  In May, the ITC issued a preliminary ruling that Mexico’s unfair trading practices were harming U.S. sugar producers and taxpayers. Commerce is expected to issue its preliminary ruling about Mexican subsidies later this month and will rule on dumping allegations this fall. The end result could be punitive duties that would limit Mexico’s sugar shipments into the U.S., which are supposed to be unregulated under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In their letter to Vilsack and Pritzker, the 63 U.S. representatives said a negotiated agreement with Mexico suspending imports could result in “windfall benefits” to the sugar producers.

They wrote:

“The United States does not produce enough sugar annually to meet its domestic needs and requires imports to maintain an adequate sugar supply at reasonable prices… We urge you to consider that the introduction of an open market in sweeteners between the United States and Mexico was no accident. It was carefully negotiated and implemented over 15 years as an integral part of our nation’s most financially significant trade agreement.”

The letter was released Wednesday as the American Sugar Alliance, a producer group, concluded its International Sweetener Symposium in Stowe, Vermont. Phillip Hayes, a spokesman for the group, said sugar producers are confident that they will prevail in the complaints filed with the DOC and ITC.


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